In Brief

The "newsboys" twice seen––and strongly heard––in Aeolus were a prominent part of English, Irish, and American city life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They exemplified capitalism in action, both in the newspapers' exploitation of poor boys to distribute their products and in the boys' energetic determination to escape brutal poverty. The cries of these enterprising boys add another layer of sound to the very noisy newspaper chapter.

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In a 9 October 2012 blog on the Come Here to Me! website, Donal Fallon observes that "the idea of the ‘newsboy’ came to prominence in the British Isles in the 1850s, with the arrival of cheap daily and evening newspapers." He notes that mentions of Dublin newsboys "can be found in The Irish Times from the early 1880s, with a letter signed ‘Pro Bono Public’ appearing in the paper in 1882 noting the ‘many trials and hardships which the majority of the newsboys of Dublin have to contend with’ and asking ‘would it not be a truly charitable and benevolent undertaking for the citizens of Dublin to provide a Newsboys Home in a central place’ for the use of these young Dublin workers." Newspaper articles from this time present the newsboys as "typically ragged and barefoot, with The Irish Times in 1884 producing the above illustration entitled ‘The Tired Newsboys!’ showing two young, ragged dressed youths asleep in a doorway, with a poem underneath noting that ‘they may perish! of cold or some worse fate!’"

Most newsboys probably were not paid any wages but simply earned a small amount from each newspaper they sold. Joyce does not characterize the economic arrangements, but he does show just how poor these boys were. Their lack of shoes is featured in their first appearance: "Screams of newsboys barefoot in the hall rushed near and the door was flung open." One newsboy spills into the office:
      Professor MacHugh strode across the room and seized the cringing urchin by the collar as the others scampered out of the hall and down the steps.
     — It wasn't me, sir. It was the big fellow shoved me, sir.
      — Throw him out and shut the door, the editor said. There's a hurricane blowing.
      Lenehan began to paw the tissues up from the floor, grunting as he stooped twice.
      — Waiting for the racing special, sir, the newsboy said. It was Pat Farrell shoved me, sir. He pointed to two faces peering in round the doorframe.
      — Him, sir.
      — Out of this with you, professor MacHugh said gruffly.
      He hustled the boy out and banged the door to.
The energy of this scene, reminiscent of an out-of-control schoolroom (a place that these boys are not), lingers for quite a while. Several paragraphs later, "The noise of two shrill voices, a mouthorgan, echoed in the bare hallway from the newsboys squatted on the doorsteps." A few paragraphs after that, Bloom leaves the office in pursuit of his ad and the professor, looking out the window, says, "Look at the young scamps after him." Lenehan comes running, and "Both smiled over the crossblind at the file of capering newsboys in Mr Bloom's wake, the last zigzagging white on the breeze a mocking kite, a tail of white bowknots. / — Look at the young guttersnipe behind him hue and cry, Lenehan said, and you'll kick. O, my rib risible! Taking off his flat spaugs and the walk."

Later in the chapter, when Stephen leaves the offices with Crawford and MacHugh, the aggressive energy with which the boys have mocked Bloom returns to its native element, selling papers: "The first newsboy came pattering down the stairs at their heels and rushed out into the street, yelling: / — Racing special!... Another newsboy shot past them, yelling as he ran:/ — Racing special!" In the street, Bloom's efforts to capture Crawford's attention are balked by Aeolian buffets:
      Mr Bloom, breathless, caught in a whirl of wild newsboys near the offices of the Irish Catholic and Dublin Penny Journal, called:
     — Mr Crawford! A moment!
     — Telegraph! Racing special!
     — What is it? Myles Crawford said, falling back a pace.
     A newsboy cried in Mr Bloom's face:
     — Terrible tragedy in Rathmines! A child bit by a bellows!

In another short blog posted on 4 July 2012, Donal Fallon observes that Ernie O'Malley remembers a newsboys' strike in his memoir On Another Man's Wound (1936): "Mounted police were charging quick witted urchins who scattered and lured the attackers into narrow by-lanes. There the boys used stones and pieces of brick with accuracy and rapidity. My sympathies were with the newsboys." An American blogger, posting on Facebook on 8 May 2021, notes that "being a newsie could be a brutal experience as the boys could have to fight every morning for the largest bundle of papers, street corners to sell them and also the proceeds of selling the papers. / Quite a few mobsters got their start in life by being newsies.... The newspapers themselves were unscrupulous; newsies would have to buy their papers to sell, while unsold papers couldn't be returned. Children selling papers would earn up to 30 cents a day; they would start at dawn and finish at night. / In 1899 the New York papers upped the prices of their papers, which led to the newsboy strike which tended to break out in fights and riots."

JH 2023
Illustration of two Irish newsboys in the 20 December 1884 issue of the Irish Times. Source:
Photograph of St. Louis, Missouri newsboys taken by Lewis Wickes Hine in 1910. Source: